Just what is a revolution? Well, in the realm of government or politics, it has to do with the overthrow of a government, or of a social system, usually by forceful means and by the governed, with another government or system taking its place. That’s the prime dictionary definition, of course. And, it must be said, this is the one definition that probably scares people more than any other. But other definitions have to do with a turning or rotation; a cycle. Then, of course, there is an element of radical change. It is not my purpose today to talk about a violent revolution. I am more concerned with a "turning" or "rotation". A turning of things upside down and inside out is more to the point.
We spoke last time of the flaws written into our Constitution. Briefly, our Founders managed to protect slave owners‘ property, protect a big business - the slave trade, protect obligations made under private contracts, and at the same time, deny the vote to most people who were not property owners, dehumanize American Indians and Blacks, while denying a Bill of Rights to the citizens of the new nation. Quite a record! And, even though many of the offensive flaws have been removed or amended, we are left with a legacy of elitism, and the concept of rule by a plutocracy, that continues to corrupt our whole system of governing.
Therefore, let us not lose sight of the fact that the fatal flaws written into the Constitution are essentially alive and well during most Right-wing moments of resurgence. Such moments always move us backward in time and philosophy to elitism and protection of the aristocracy plus the tendency to exclude certain groups from participation. The built-in flawed legacy of the constitution reared its head in the 1970s with Nixon and somewhat with Ford; then again in the 1980s with the “Reagan Revolution,” and finally with George W. Bush in the 2000s and the Tea Party of the 2010s. We have a situation on our hands politically with the Tea Party that simply does not lend itself to gradual change, to legislative reform, or even to leadership by a President who is dedicated to change. Those same flaws originally built-in to our Constitution continue to affect and disrupt our system of government, all masked by a set of checks and balances that do not prevent the protected plutocracy from exploiting the unprotected.
Let us take a closer look at the “Reagan Revolution” as the prototype for all that we are seeing now in the Tea Party's game plan, utilizing facts and figures from a lecture at Colorado University on this very subject, an article from The Nation, and another on AlterNet.com.
1. Protecting the Plutocracy:
--cut taxes on the rich from 70% to 28%
--created so many millionaires in the 1980s that the term became almost meaningless; by 1988, it was estimated there were over 100,000 deca-millionaires
--in 1981 there were 10 billionaires in the U.S.; by 1988 there were 52.
--the top 10% of households controlled over 68% of the wealth in the U.S
--the elite of America reveled in their good fortune and the Reagan Revolution also made good on another fatal flaw: they de-regulated certain industries, thus giving them more control over their destinies; the S&L bank scandal was the result because government oversight was absent and fraud was rampant
--at the same time, Reagan began a tax break for companies that moved overseas and jobs quickly began to disappear
2. Attacking the Underprivileged and Keeping Them in "Their Place”:
--eliminate the remnants of the Great Society at which he partially succeeded, especially by cutting federal expenditures on education, training, social services, public works, civilian research and development -- all plunged by 40%
--wages stagnated; income fell; credit debt was encouraged, labor unions were seriously undermined, not only by the traffic controller strike outcome but by the emergence of temporary labor replacing full-time jobs
--By 1988, a majority of Americans could not afford to buy their own house
--The US became the largest debtor nation, after having been the world's largest creditor nation
--the income of white males fell in the 1980s; minimum wage was frozen at $3.35 an hour while prices rose; number living below poverty rose from 26.1 million in 1979 to 32.7 million in 1988
--the 1980s saw pervasive racial discrimination by banks, real estate agents and landlords
--Reagan's indifference to urban problems was legendary: assistance to local governments was slashed by 60%; he cut jobs and job training, almost dismantled federally-funded legal services for the poor, and cut the antipoverty Community Development Block Grant program and reduced funds for public transit. In 1980 federal dollars accounted for an average of 22% of big city budgets; by 1988 federal aid was down to 6%. Many of our cities still haven't recovered from the "Reagan Revolution."
3. Support for States' Rights:
--One of his more famous lines: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem” could probably be said to be at the base of the ideology matching that of today’s elite – “you’re on your own!” It set the stage for "States' Rights"
--Reagan got middle Americans fixated on the federal government as pro-higher taxes, pro-bureaucracy, pro-immigrant, pro-welfare and pro-rights of criminals. Many whites believed that Reagan tax cuts delivered them from big government and big spending and from the special interests which came to mean blacks, the poor and women.
--The Deep South was Reagan country where he could be heard to say: "I believe in States' Rights. I believe that we've distorted the balance of our government by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to the federal government."
--Although pretty much unspoken, there was anticipation that Reagan would return the country to pre-civil rights days when blacks, women and minorities knew their place. It was never any secret to those around him that race played a significant part in all of this: he refused to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus; he attempted to reduce the power of the Civil Rights Commission, and he opposed the extension of the Civil Rights Act.
--Probably our most important domestic legacy from the Reagan years is the government’s weakened ability to actually protect families, consumers, workers, the handicapped and the environment. There was a lasting impact when programs from the Great Society that attacked the causes of poverty became the “safety net” of disconnected, often conflicting, pieces of a puzzle aimed at nothing more than short-term relief.
So why do we need a counter-revolution? By now, that should be obvious. Every time a Republican Congress or President comes on-board, there is a resurgence of the flaws that undermine the best tenets of our representative democracy.
Think about it:
· Who is in charge of Congress? Not Republicans and Democrats, but millionaires and their corporate cronies who call the shots – the wealthy
· For that matter, who can afford to run for Congress? – those who have money because elitism is built-in
· Who takes home certain privileges that are unavailable to anyone else? the Congress, the rich, and the powerful
· Who gets not to suffer during a huge recession? the richest among us whose income has gone up - the 1% gained an average of $597,241 each year.
· Who gets the biggest portion of extracted money from the federal tax code? The biggest corporations
· Who is protected from the usual punishments given to criminals? The rich and powerful like the bankers and financiers on Wall Street who were never punished for their crimes. They probably never will be.
· Who, on the other hand, has to carry the burden of all of this, plus be unprotected in the main from exploitations of the rich and powerful? The middle and poorer classes, of course
· And who, after all, has to remain in “their place” as dictated by the rich and powerful: minorities, immigrants, the poor, women and the disabled or handicapped and the ill.
· Who is setting the rules by which the rest of us must live our lives? Not us, that’s for sure.
· Who has lost representation? You know who...
The Counter Revolution Begins when:
*Citizens gather together to demonstrate against their exploitation
* Voters decide to turn out in big numbers even for off-year elections
* Consumers demand protection and consideration
* Consumers boycott the products, stores or services of those who do not play by the rules, who extract privileges from the public coffers, or who exploit the vulnerability of the average consumer
* Lower and middle bracket taxpayers demand fair and judicious spending of their tax dollars by their governments
* Ordinary citizens demand a government that represents them by exerting their right to be a part of government
* All special privileges for Congressmen, the Executive and the Judiciary are removed
The Counter Revolution gets serious when:
an amendment is passed to allow for direct citizen petitioning for a constitutional convention which must be called by Congress if petitions are signed by one-third of eligible voters in one-half of the states
a constitutional amendment ends Citizens United recognition of political speech as free speech and corporations as individuals, and requires free and fair elections, including public financing
any sort of gift (or "emolument") given to office holders and their staff or family is prohibited and subject to punishment and disbarment
a constitutional amendment re-defines and clarifies the second amendment in terms of limits on gun ownership and utilization and prohibits a gun lobby from profiting from a constitutional right in any way
a constitutional amendment (or legislation) is offered on elections that prevents unknown 3rd party advertising and that sets guidelines for documented facts in political speech, ads, and literature, with penalties for violation
an amendment sets limits on Congress and its members in terms of rule-making, earmarks, exemptions from laws, and that closes the revolving door into lucrative positions because of insider knowledge, and broadens that concept to prevent insider knowledge being used for personal aggrandizement
an amendment demands accounting for use of tax money in any form; requires public accounting yearly, allows for private citizen auditing of government spending; calls for private citizen involvement in required advisory boards in every office of Congress and in Inspector General offices in the Executive Branch, as well as in the Attorney General's Office, and in the Office of the Head Justice of the SCOTUS; with a portion of those committee seats reserved for representatives of minorities or of those living in poverty; and for young people as well
an amendment requires the drawing of congressional districts by non-partisan Commissions made up of ordinary citizens
an amendment on Voting rights spells out clearly a complete intolerance for any legislation that attempts to limit voter rights and privileges; in other words, voter suppression of any kind will be outlawed
The Counter Revolution is Successful when:
Congressmen do not spend most of their time raising money to run for office
Office-holders seek advice from ordinary citizens on a regular basis, and follow that advice most of the time
Officeholders bring new ideas and policies to their limited terms
Congressional districts are no longer drawn according to vote-getting, but strictly according to census numbers
The President is elected by direct ballot and there is no longer a possibility of manipulating the electoral vote
Lobbyists, and corporate agents, are relegated to the dung heap of history by laws and regulations that prevent their gifts and their power from unbalanced influence over laws and regulations
Regular citizens in positions of some authority begin to advise, evaluate and audit the budgets, offices, programs, habits and expenditures of all tax-spending bureaucrats and their counterparts in the private-sector world of government contracts
Those in minority communities, and those living in or near poverty levels, as well as women, young people and those with disabilities begin to feel that they have advocates in high places; that someone is representing their views and their needs and their dreams, and corresponding laws are passed to present real possibilities for those at risk to advance themselves to the highest levels of achievement that they desire.
The Counter Revolution is not a Dream or an Ideal! It is a reality and a necessity, for nothing short of a movement that seeks to turn the status quo inside out and upside down will suffice to fashion this society into a truly representative democracy. The problem is that anything short of a revolution will do little in the end to change much because the flaws written into the Constitution favor the rule of the few over the many. If you refuse to become a counter-revolutionary, you and yours will remain the dupes of the wealthy and their agents. The Counter Revolution is not "Class Warfare"; it is the road to survival of democracy, the dignity of equality and the ascendancy of the People!